29 Nov 2009

Commonwealth leaders back climate change plan

8:07 pm on 29 November 2009

Commonwealth leaders have backed a multibillion-dollar plan to help developing nations deal with climate change and cut greenhouse gases.

The fund, proposed by the British and French leaders at the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) summit at Trinidad and Tobago, would start next year and build to $US10 billion a year by 2012, the BBC reports.

About 50 countries, including New Zealand, issued a Climate Change Declaration on Saturday.

Though it does not set specific emissions targets, the declaration calls for an internationally "legally binding" agreement on climate change to be reached at a United Nations' conference in Copenhagen in December.

US climate policy attacked

Many Commonwealth members are island states threatened by rising sea levels. A statement by CHOGM leaders said "fast start funding" for adaptation should be focused on the most vulnerable countries.

Papua New Guinea has attacked the United States' climate change policy, at the meeting.

PNG's Prime Minister Michael Somare said the targets proposed by the US of only 3% below 1990, by 2020 are not only irresponsibly low, they are quite unacceptable.

He says many small island states in his region are already suffering the obvious negative effects of global warming.

He cited instances of islands disappearing, food shortages due to soil erosion and salinity, and irregular weather patterns.

Sir Michael urged CHOGM to call on US President Barack Obama to improve the US policy.

Climate change and greenhouse gases

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said half the $US10 billion fund should go towards helping developing nations reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and the other half towards helping them adapt to climate change.

The first cash would be made available next year, he said, before any emissions deal could take effect.

Commonwealth leaders met days after pledges by the United States and China to limit their greenhouse gas emissions, amid concerns that the summit in Copenhagen could fail to agree substantial cuts.

Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the world had to act.

He said the Commonwealth, which represents a third of the world's population, is saying to the world that the time for action on climate change has come.

New Zealand's Associate Climate Change Minister Tim Groser told Radio New Zealand's Sunday programme that the Copenhagen summit must produce more than just a political declaration.

"What I hope we get is a clear set of clear political commitments to make clear decisions on some of the key issues attached to which would be probably some annexes outlining, not necessarily unconditionally, the policy commitments that different developed and developing countries can take."

About 190 nations will gather in Copenhagen from 7-18 December to work out a global deal to fight climate change after the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012.